The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market and commercial environment, from a female executive's perspective

New Year’s Resolutions: Are you still sticking to yours?

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Do you write down goals and resolutions at the start of a new year? Do you know what you want to achieve? Are there things you would like to change or do differently in the new year?

So now, one week into 2014, how are you managing to stick to your plans?

I’m not just talking losing 2 stone or giving up smoking here!

Those are the kind of resolutions that typically get broken within the first 2 weeks of the new year. They are made on the spur of the moment, following 5 extra helpings of Christmas pudding or smoking the box of cigars from Auntie Mary in Cuba all in one go. These resolutions are driven by our situation rather than our intent. They are aimed at the present. That muffin top is there NOW, and we want rid of it NOW! Clearly, it’s not going to disappear NOW because it took several weeks of overeating to get there in the first place. So we get bored because NOW doesn’t happen quickly enough, and because the time/cost benefit in achieving the resolution is not important enough to us.

Instead, I want to talk about the bigger resolutions. Those that are mindful that, if we want to effect change, we have to pace ourselves and be careful with how we decide on what we want to achieve.

I am talking about the life changing stuff: Resolutions like “I want to be a better parent” or “My eating habits have to change”. Or what about “I want to change my career”.

These are pretty large objectives! They are also broad, non-specific and unstructured. Think about the time/cost benefit in achieving small resolutions, and how we fail sadly in maintaining the momentum. With these more challenging resolutions, the cost is also measured in many other ways: There may have to be self-acceptance, mindset change, behaviour alterations, painful personal admissions before one can even start to think about the end outcomes.

I believe that a solid reality check is the best way to test commitment before setting out making wild and unachievable resolutions. I use the 5 W’s to help me:

1. First, understand WHY
What is the driving force behind my desire to achieve this particular thing? Is it internal (my own personal needs or desires are driving me) or external (my environment, partner, situation is forcing me). Can you see the difference? Doing something because we really want to achieve them is different to being forced into things. If you have not bought into your own objective fully, you will not be committed to achieving it.

2. Secondly, consider WHO ELSE is involved
Does your objective impact other people? For example, being a better parent infers that there are children involved. How do they feel about your goal? Is it worth asking them what their thoughts are? The same goes for resolutions like career changes or learning instruments which will require input from other people – “enablers”. What do they need in order to enable you to achieve your objectives? Enablers can become disablers if there are conflicting expectations.

3. Then, think about WHAT tools you require
Ask any tradesman and they will tell you that the quality of the tools dictate the quality of the final job. It is very likely that you are not immediately equipped to achieve your resolutions. After all, if you knew how to do these things they wouldn’t be resolutions because you would be doing them already. You may have to learn new skills to make that career change. Changing your eating habits might require joining a self-help group. Becoming a better parent might require a parenting course. Big changes don’t just happen by themselves. In order to achieve change we have to be prepared to apply ourselves, using the right tools, in pursuit of our goals. If you are not prepared to find or invest in the right tools then you are unlikely to achieve your objectives.

4. By WHEN do you want to achieve this?
Life changes and evolves all the time. Trying to stick a time slot on life is like putting a sticky label on a crocodile. Think about that one for a moment. Is your hand / arm still intact? Time is relative to input vs perception. Before you know it, your time limit would have come and gone before you even started. Or you may find that unexpectedly, things fall into place overnight. My point is: Be realistic and objective. For example, bad eating habits take years (life times?) to establish. Changing bad habits can take years too. Finding a new job to kick off your career change can take a lot longer than you hoped. You may never become the parent you hope to be because your children keep growing up. Or you may just walk into your dream job when you least expect it, and things immediately change. Of course, it is important to set time scales on goals if we want to maintain momentum and keep motoring. All I’m saying is that being prepared to change your timing expectations, if needed, will help you keep motivated. Constantly recalibrate and be open to unexpected developments as they may throw you right off course.

5. WHERE will you do this?
Location, location, location. You may need to relocate to find that job. Getting to the best nutritionist might mean travelling 30 miles. Better parenting might mean taking your children on a holiday or retreat to create opportunities to communicate. You may need to make changes in your home to accommodate your resolution. There may be practical considerations that could involve cost. Are you going to be in the right place to do what you have to do to stick to your resolution? If not, what is the likelihood of sticking to it?

6. Finally, add in HOW MUCH?
Will there be a financial cost, and can you afford it? More importantly, work out what the personal cost is likely to be. It’s easy to calculate monetary impact but when things are going to be challenging or difficult, the personal cost involved is the more harrowing one. To change eating habits will mean coping with hunger and possibly, digestive issues that may be unpleasant. Better parenting might require you to challenge your own behaviour or upbringing and that might be emotional and upsetting. Changing career might require you to acknowledge your own limitations and you may become frustrated. Do you want this goal enough to carry the personal cost?

REALITY CHECK OVER!

If you can write down specific answers to all these questions in relation to your resolution and still feel excited by it, then you are committed to the goal. If you feel daunted in any way, then rethink your goal and break it into smaller, more digestible chunks.

If you are committed to any goal, you will achieve it. So what is stopping you? Make changes as you need to and go for it in 2014!

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Written by Cathy Richardson

December 31, 2013 at 3:39 pm

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